This Christmas, nearly 100 talented students, aged between six and 23 years old, have an extra reason to celebrate. They’re on the road to accomplishing their dreams – a career in the performing arts – having won one of 96 The Stage Scholarships sponsored by 15 schools and worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
To congratulate them, we invited a selection of our winners to a special photoshoot at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls.
Ella Schrey-Yeats and Daniella O’Dwyer
Susi Earnshaw Theatre School
Twelve-year-old Ella Schrey-Yeats, from Tottenham, and Daniella O’Dwyer, 11, from Barnet, won two half-scholarships towards attending the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School full-time for the next five years.
Ella says: “It’s one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity, it’s made a real difference to my life. We have dancing, singing and acting lessons – that’s an ordinary vocational day. If we even had the chance of one singing class at my old school, that would have been unusual. ”
Daniella says: “A dream came true for me when I got offered the scholarship place. I have loved dance since I was little and can’t believe that I am performing that dream on an almost daily basis! I couldn’t thank The Stage and Susi Earnshaw enough for the opportunity. I don’t feel like I ever want to leave the school. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Alice Lucy and Marilyn Nadebe
Fourth Monkey Theatre Company
Alice Lucy, 18, from Romsey, and Marilyn Nadebe, 23, from London, won The Stage Scholarship to Fourth Monkey Theatre Company. They will each receive 50% funding towards attending the two-year rep actor training programme.
Alice says: “I am so grateful to The Stage and Fourth Monkey for awarding me with this scholarship. The award has given me the opportunity to study my vocation and
passion with an institution I admire hugely. I intend to make everyone who has supported my future proud.”
Marilyn says: “I didn’t study the arts at university – I chose accountancy and finance – but the yearning to perform and act never went away. I knew I definitely had to pursue my passion, and The Stage and Fourth Monkey have given me a chance to do just that. I appreciate the scholarship so much; it has helped me to put my life back on track.
Olivia Eden, Lewis Challinor and Bethany Unwin
SLP College is back for a second year as a partner in The Stage Scholarships scheme, which is good news for these three aspiring performers looking for high-quality training in musical theatre and dance.
Lewis Challinor, 21, from Worksop, is attending the three-year professional dance course. “I can’t even to begin to express how thankful I am to The Stage, its readers and SLP College for making all this come true,” he says. “To be able to study and train for three years at such a phenomenal college with their support is an absolute honour. They’re making dreams come true.”
Olivia Eden, 19, from St Helens, has received funding towards attending the three-year musical theatre course. She says: “I was so happy and excited when I got the letter through confirming I had got The Stage Scholarship! I couldn’t wait to ring my mum and tell her. This has helped me so much.”
Bethany Unwin, 17, from Derby, who has joined SLP College’s foundation course, says: “I am very honoured to have been given The Stage Scholarship, it is a very exciting opportunity for me. Thanks to everyone who made this possible.”
Madeline Matti, Rose Elliott, Charley Croucher, Sophia Coombe and Gabriella Haugh
Razzamataz Theatre Schools
Razzamataz Theatre Schools founder and principal Denise Hutton-Gosney offered 22 awards in The Stage Scholarships scheme for 2015. The winners from right across the UK each receive the equivalent of a year’s free study.
Here we meet (left to right): Madeline Matti, 14 (Razz Sheffield), Rose Elliott, 16 (Razz Medway), Charley Croucher, 8 (Razz Mansfield), Sophia Coombe, 16 (Razz Wokingham), and Gabriella Haugh, 14 (Razz Carlisle).
Madeline says: “I’ve been ill for quite a long time so haven’t been able to do any sport or dancing, so I really wanted to start doing something like this. I didn’t think I was good enough to win the scholarship but now I’ve got much more confidence in my ability.”
Rose says: “Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to be at Razz, and I love it there. I have become more confident and feel much more comfortable about being myself.”
Charley says: “The year before I had had to think of stopping at Razz, but I am so pleased I have the chance to stay.”
Sophia says: “Thanks to Razzamataz, I am now closer to reaching my dreams I have had since I was a little girl. I am so proud that I have reached goals I never thought I could.”
Gabriella says: “I am absolutely thrilled to be given this chance to enrich my passion in the performing arts. The scholarship has helped me believe I can get somewhere with my dancing and made me more determined.”
Adam Wicks and Rachel Head
Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama
Now in its fifth year as a partner, MADD – as the academy is known – offered two full scholarships for the school’s three-year professional musical theatre diploma. Rachel Head, 22, from Stockton-on-Tees, and Adam Wicks, 18, from Suffolk, are the lucky winners.
Adam says: “I was speechless when I found out I had won the scholarship. Thanks so much to The Stage and MADD for giving me this opportunity and for believing in me. I feel like I really have the chance now to show my full potential.”
Rachel says: “I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I saw that I had won the scholarship. It’s just something I never thought would happen to me, and it did. It gives both me and my family a sense of security that I can go on to study my three years at MADD, and it feels like a dream.”
Chloe Hare and Chelsie Austen
D&B Academy of Performing Arts
Chloe Hare, 19, from Rainham in Kent, and Chelsie Austen, 17, from Goffs Oak/Cuffley in Hertfordshire, will attend the full-time musical theatre course at D&B Academy, based in Bromley, Kent.
Chloe says: “I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled and grateful I am to have received The Stage Scholarship. I have always been a believer in the quote, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’, especially as D&B has been my dream college to train at for many years. Being here has finally made my dream feel real.”
Chelsie says: “I am so thankful to all the staff at D&B for believing in me and for giving me this amazing opportunity. I intend to make every minute count and work as hard as I possibly can for the next three years. The scholarship will push me towards my dream and give me the tools to get there.”
Brooke Skinner, Gabriella Songui and Abigail Collins
Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts
Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts has offered 44 awards in The Stage Scholarships scheme for 2015. The winners from across the UK will each receive the equivalent of a year’s free study. Three students attended the photoshoot: Brooke Skinner, 10, and Gabriella Songui, 17 (both PQA Sutton) and Abigail Collins, 12 (PQA Tonbridge).
Brooke says: “This makes me feel that I have the potential to really do something with what I am learning. I was so shocked when I found out I had got the scholarship, I want to say a really big thank you for choosing me.”
Gabriella says: “Being at PQA allows me to have a go at things behind the scenes. I like scriptwriting and I wrote a script that was performed. I’m incredibly grateful to The Stage and PQA. I’m not sure I would have been able to explore my writing further without the scholarship.”
Abigail says: “The scholarship has made a real difference to everything – it’s been such a boost to my confidence both at PQA and at school in the week as well. The classes open up such a lot of opportunities.”
Redroofs School for the Performing Arts
The Stage Scholarships for Redroofs School recognised Elise Blake, 11, from Chadwell Heath, Essex, who received a full scholarship covering her fees through until the end of year 11.
Elise recently played Baby June opposite Imelda Staunton in the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Gypsy, while her West End credits include roles such as the young Eponine in Les Miserables and the title role in Matilda.
“Thank you for making it possible for me to be at a school where I have the chance to do what I like to do best. My mum always told me dreams come true if you work hard and believe in yourself. I am the luckiest girl in the world and promise to make everyone who believed in me proud,” she says.
Scarlet Crowe, Oliwia Wawrzyniak, Eleanor Faulkner and Bonnie Burgess
Barbara Speake Stage School
It’s the first year the Barbara Speake Stage School has been a partner in The Stage Scholarships scheme, starting off by generously offering one full scholarship and eight part scholarships.
Oliwia Wawrzyniak, 13, from Hanwell, London, won a scholarship to cover her school fees up to year 11. Oliwia says: “It’s so very important to me that I have won such an amazing scholarship. With this award, I will be able to achieve my dreams and go even further. Thank you for this great opportunity, I am going to grab it with both hands.”
Among the part scholarship winners are:
Scarlet Crowe, 11, from Twickenham, Middlesex. “I don’t think I would have been able to go to stage school without the scholarship,” she says. “Winning it has given me me a lot more confidence, it’s made me think I can really do something in the industry.”
Eleanor Faulkner, 14, from Langley, Berkshire. She says: “At the school, performing is what everyone enjoys, everyone is passionate about it. Teachers know your strengths and weaknesses, you’re not just a number. Going to the school has already had such an effect on me; to have the opportunity to grow as a person, academically and through the performing arts, it’s incredible how much the scholarships help people like me.”
Bonnie Burgess, 10, from Isleworth, Middlesex. “I love this school, it’s changed my life,” she says. “Thank you so much to my family for supporting me and everyone at The Stage and Barbara Speake. I know I have improved already.”
Sylvia Young Theatre School
Dedication to the nurturing and training of young talent has been reflected in the Sylvia Young Theatre School’s involvement with The Stage Scholarships scheme. Over the space of 23 years, Young and her team have helped more than 70 children to pursue a career in the performing arts.
Our cover star (see p33) Ella Tweed, 12, from Northampton, already has a number of West End credits to her name (including roles in Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and has also appeared in Game of Thrones. She will attend the Sylvia Young Theatre School full-time for five years.
She said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. This is life-changing – it’s so amazing to be a part of the school and be welcomed by so many people who like doing the same things I do.”
Ryan Condy, 22, from West Lothian, Scotland, won The Stage Scholarship to CPA Studios, and is attending the three-year full-time musical theatre diploma course. CPA is part of Colins Performing Arts Group.
Ryan said: “When I auditioned for CPA, I felt like I was somewhere I belong. I had to go there. Unfortunately, due to my finances, I was unable to do the course. I was called into the studios one day and the principal told me that I had won The Stage Scholarship. I couldn’t believe it. Winning the scholarship is a dream come true for me, and without the support from CPA and The Stage I most definitely wouldn’t have been able to follow my dream.”
Charlotte Forde and Abigail Bryan
Expressions Academy of Performing Arts
Nineteen-year-olds Charlotte Forde, from Leicester, and Abigail Bryan, from Stockton-on-Tees, are now attending Expressions Academy of Performing Arts’ full-time, three-year musical theatre course.
Abigail said: “To be offered a place at EPA is fantastic, but to be awarded The Stage Scholarship is an honour and a privilege. I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I’m so looking forward to the next three years, with the hope in the future to fulfil my dream.”
Charlotte added: “This opportunity means the world to me. I want to thank everyone that has made winning the scholarship possible. I feel so fortunate. The scholarship feels like such a massive achievement for me. It’s everything I could have wanted.”
Melissa Pool and Madison Croston
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
In recent years, Italia Conti has increased its profile, as the school featured in the CBBC series School for Stars, but the academy also has an impressive history and is regarded as the oldest performing arts training school in the world. Becoming part of that history are Melissa Pool, 13, from Northamptonshire, and Madison Croston, 14, from Blackpool.
Melissa says: “I’m super excited. I’ve wanted to go to Italia Conti for years. Not in a million years would I have been able to go without the scholarship. Now it’s actually happening, I just can’t believe it.”
Madison says: “When I got the letter I was so happy and excited, I just wanted to get started straight away. I feel so lucky to have the chance to get the training I will need to be a professional performer. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you to The Stage and Italia Conti for making this possible.”
Two schools were unable to attend the photoshoot:
- The Big Act winners are Arthur Byrne, 18, from Bristol, and Amy Gardiner, 19, from Plymouth.
The Stella Mann College of Performing Arts winner is Hamish Ross, 16, from Kettering, Northamptonshire.
Behind the scenes
Photos: Alex Brenner and Elina Kansikas
Make-up: Melanie Szabo
The Stage Scholarships editor: Lisa Martland
Photoshoot organiser: Paul Vale